Florida’s warm temperatures and lush flora help new residents thrive — but some of those transplants are eating the very ecosystem that’s sustaining them. And we’re not talking about New Yorkers. No, certain newbies of the herpetological kind have become reptiles non grata, and Florida is saying “no more.” Last month, the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously decided to ban possession and breeding of a list of 16 nonnative invasive species.
“We have to put our foot down,” said chairman Rodney Barreto. “The time has come to take a bold stand against these real threats to our environment.”
The charges against these bad guests? Green iguanas disturb private moments by crawling out of toilets, Nile monitors scarf burrowing owls and Argentine tegu lizards feast on turtle eggs. Most notorious of all, Burmese pythons have been decimating the Everglades’ small mammal population since about 1979.
These reptiles are escapees of the pet trade, which is huge in Florida. The hot temperatures are ideal for breeding reptiles. Reptile breeders are livid about the new ban. Many will have to move out of state or find a new trade. The U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers has claimed that the ban is a betrayal of their attempt to try to come up with a compromise that would have still allowed pythons, green iguanas, green anacondas, Nile monitors and tegus to be bred and owned in Florida. Breeders blame Governor DeSantis, who is trying to rid the Everglades of pythons.
While the newly banned reptiles have their fans, these aren’t your cute little bearded dragons. Tegus are considered smart, able to recognize their owners and even affectionate, but not everybody is equipped to have a four-foot lizard in the house. Nile monitors are very beautiful lizards but known for aggressive temperaments, powerful bites and lashing tails. And at 20 to 30 feet long and up to 550 pounds, few people are suited to bring home a green anaconda. As Reptile Magazine puts it, “Captive-bred anacondas can make calm, tractable pets when raised properly, but they do get large, and their strength should be respected.”
The new rules will be phased in over the coming months, with a total ban on commercial breeding of iguanas, tegus and certain snakes in effect as of June 2024. Pet owners can keep their existing pets, as long as outdoor enclosures meet new standards to safely contain herpetological Houdinis. But when their anacondas and Nile monitors pass away, people will have to replace them with something Florida deems reasonable. Maybe a cat or dog.
Lead image via Pixabay